As the tenth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana approaches, the chief executive of National AIDS has spoken of the ground-breaking work the ‘people’s princess’ did for people living with HIV and AIDS.

In the early 1990s, when HIV and AIDS were surrounded by hysteria and prejudice, Diana become patron of the National AIDS Trust, the UK’s leading independent policy and campaigning voice on HIV and AIDS.

She was patron of the National AIDS Trust from 1991 until her death in 1997.

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, told PinkNews:

“Princess Diana’s tragic death was a catastrophic blow in the fight against HIV in the UK.

“Ten years on, the National AIDS Trust has not replaced Princess Diana as its patron, as no individual has come close in terms of raising the profile of HIV in the UK and tackling the stigma and discrimination that surrounds the virus.

“Just by holding the hand of a person living with AIDS Diana changed the opinions of millions and broke down stigma and misconceptions around the world.

“Although many public figures have done invaluable work to tackle the HIV epidemic in developing countries, no-one has championed the cause of HIV in the UK as Diana did.

“As a result, HIV in the UK has slipped off the public agenda since Diana’s death, even though the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in the UK is now almost three times what it was ten years ago.”

The National AIDS Trust is a registered charity which develops policies and campaigns to halt the spread of HIV, and improve the quality of life of people affected by HIV and AIDS, both in the UK and internationally.

Today the National AIDS Trust continues Princess Diana’s legacy by challenging stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV, campaigning for them to have access to the support and care that they need and ensuring that their voices are heard at the highest levels.

The National AIDS Trust’s work focuses on the groups most affected by HIV, including gay men, ethnic minorities and asylum seekers, many of whom experience poverty and social disadvantage.

The Trust also works to stop the further spread of HIV by educating people, and especially young people, through events such as World AIDS Day.

A spokesperson for the Trust told PinkNews: “Diana knew the difficulty of fundraising for a condition that was surrounded by stigma and for an organisation that worked to bring about change at a policy level and so played a key role in National AIDS Trust events, such as the Concert for Hope, which brought together leading musicians of the time – including George Michael and Take That – to raise money for the National AIDS Trust and encourage people to unite in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

“Diana’s contribution definitely helped the National AIDS Trust and other HIV organisation raise funds to support their work at a time when the public were reluctant to give money to HIV and AIDS charities.”

HIV remains one of the most serious public health challenges facing Britain. There are now over 70,000 people infected with HIV in the UK, with one in three of this number undiagnosed.

The numbers living with diagnosed HIV have almost trebled in the ten years since Princess Diana’s death. There are now more than 7,000 new HIV diagnoses a year compared with under 2,800 in 1995, according to statistics published in June this year by the Health Protection Agency.